David J Smith
David J Smith

Is Afrikaans cooler as Engels?

If you grew up in Durban you had little time for Afrikaans. We thought it was dumb, intellectually inferior. A blunt language with no creative value. Too limited in its diction to produce anything of worth. It was what the Vaalies spoke when they invaded our beaches. It was the language the SAUK dubbed TV shows into to make them extra rubbish. We saw Afrikaans as boring. It was Bles Bridges and Riaan Cruywagen. The tongue of the unfashionable and the conservative. The language of the oppressor. The language of apartheid. (I’m sure I saw those signs in English too, but anyway). By 1994, it seemed like all the stuff we had been told was true. Afrikaans was totally uncool. It looked like it was a goner. A dead language that would be assigned to the scrapheap of history.

But fok did we get it wrong! The Afrikaans kids are here to take the power back. To show us who is baas. But this time, the politics and the weirdo white power stuff is gone. They are here to kick it hard and party like its 2099. They are here to show us no-one throws down like an Afrikaner rushing on klippies — the cocaine of the working-class man.

Rising up from the streets of Belville comes Jack Parow and his Tyger Valley crew. They are mining deep into their suburban roots. Pulling up the shit that the rest of us have shunned and twisting it into gold. While we sat there thinking we were the coolness, the creative ones with the hook-ups to the international scene, these kids went inside. While we looked to NY, Paris and London for our influences, these kids looked to CY, Parys and Benoni. They speak from the heart and tell their truth. It’s like Jack Parow says in his track, Cooler as ekke:

Jy’s die ou met die new fresh look
Ek’s die ou met die Pep Stores broek.

That shit is tight. Because it isn’t coming at you from Pitchfork Media, GQ or the latest issue of One Small Seed, it’s coming vannie grond. It’s of its place. It is relevant, legitimate and honest. And it’s funny like ________ (insert really funny thing here). In fact, it is even funnier. Go listen to it.

But it ain’t just Jack. Afrikaans has more than one answer to its detractors. In fact it has Die Antwoord. A band that has two-point-zeroed the Afrikaans liedjie into a new millennium. They call it Afrikaans rave-rap. A sort of boereorkes with beats vetter than a mince vetkoek. The funny thing is: Ninja, the front man of Die Antwoord used to be Max Normal and before that Waddy of the Original Evergreens, and he used to sing in English only. Recognise, things change.

But it’s not just the music, it’s the fashion, it’s the look, it’s sliced up sweet like highway roses. I’m not sure if it is nice to compare a girl to a 3L Ford Cortina but I’m going to. Yo-landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord is sexy like that. A chrome spray job, sleek lines and brimming with guts. But if working-class Afrikaans girls don’t float your boat, there is always the Afro-chic of Gazelle. The king of the New Rave African Dictators. This man is carving a new place for the white boy in Africa. If Idi Amin and Donna Summers had a love child it would be Gazelle. Yes, he is that good. His track, Die Verlore Seun basically has just one line but it speaks reams.

Sorry papa, ek moes die plaas verlaat, want ek mis die disko ligte

If you wanted to sum up the beautiful angst of Afrikaans, that says everything. I wish I could write a line like that. But I went to a school that pitched Afrikaans to us as droll, something to endure rather than enjoy. If someone had suggested Afrikaans as an artistic tool, a vehicle for great music and on-point comedy they would have been called a fool.

But like they say it’s never too late to learn. So I emailed Jack Parow and he threw me a line. In fact he threw me several. I asked him to write a set of rules to help me live like a legit Belville Brak, to live life the Jack Parow way. And this is what he wrote:

Fokken dans oppie speaker, fokken dans oppie grond

fokken spring oppie tafels, fokken bons fokken rond

fokken hier fokken daar, fokken alles deurmekaar

fokken jack parow bra, fokken dans oppie bar

fokken dans op jou eie, fokken dans in n groep

dans met n sixpack, fokken dans met n boep

dans oppie dansvloer, dans om n hoek

dans met n cupcake, dans met n koek

drink tot jy dronk is, drink tot jy kotz

drink tot jy sterk is, drink tot jy bots

drink saam met brunettes, drink saam met blondes

drink saam met cool kids, drink saam met skom


PS This piece wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to Koos Kombuis, Brasse vannie Kaap, Fokofpolisiekar and all the other Alt-bro Afrikaners out there. Peace Y’all.